Too often these days companies throw lots of effort and money into social media campaigns, expecting the same sort of results a business would get from traditional advertising and marketing. Then, when things don’t work out as expected, it becomes a big embarrassment and frustration as well as a complete abdication of any use of social media ever again. Unfortunately, this sort of scenario plays out too often because the approach going into social media was incorrect to begin with.
It’s Not Marketing
The problem with social media is that it is not marketing per se. It is a communication environment and platform that has its own rules and modes of behavior. Businesses and consultants have likened social media to marketing and advertising because that category seems like the most obvious similarity. That’s where the mistakes begin to happen.
Instead, social media is far more about building connections, awareness, and a steady stream of content to keep people coming back. That means creating a whole lot of free information and not expecting any financial return from it. The approach also means dedicating resources to the effort on a long-term, permanent basis, which many company managers will question without a clear idea of what the return involved will be.
Building the Name, Building the Brand
Where social media can be very helpful and powerful is when a company takes the approach of brand development, i.e public education of what the company is about, including its products, and how the business fits into the community. Of course, there’s no magic button one can click on and all that relevant information is suddenly downloaded into a consumer’s brain. So, a business has to have a plan of how to go about building a brand on social media and then stick to that path during implementation.
Some might ask, what good does talking about a brand do? Isn’t the primary focus the product or service sold? Yes and no. Yes, the product and service sales are critical. However, when a business is using social media, the focus there is to embed the company’s name and function into a consumer’s mind. With enough repetition and awareness, eventually the consumer will distinguish the business from others as a familiar brand to trust and rely on. Then, downstream, a company can realize sales from that same trust. There will never be a direct dollar-for-dollar relationship between time spent on Facebook and Twitter versus a specific sale. However, eventually, an impact does occur if the awareness is maintained in consumers. Social media is one cost-effective, wide-reaching way to meet a brand awareness goal.
The Media Plan Matters
Companies have to have a detailed approach before getting started. This includes an overall message and direction of how each post and issue ties back to the primary awareness goal that social media is supposed to serve. Then, whenever the company’s staff are posting material or responding to comments, the business’ position always brings the consumer back to the main message of what the company offers. This avoids deviation of discussion on social media platforms, and all the reading content posted has a purpose and ties back to the media plan.
Using social media for brand development is not a direct investment that returns equivalent sales or dollars on effort spent. It is a long-term, permanent effort to education consumers about a business’ purpose, product or service, and role in a community. By maintaining the effort with dedicated resources, a company can eventually build a following and name synergy with affected consumers.